Monday 10 September 2018

Karlskrona Island-Hopping Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 13.0 km (8.0 miles), terrain: a few small hills, gain 65 meters

NOTE: You can easily shorten this route by just leaving off loops like Dragsö island.

Karlskrona is spread out over 30 islands, embedded in the watery realm of Sweden's rocky skärgård (skerry islands). And, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has a lot of interesting architectural scenery to offer during a run through town.

Karlskrona is the home of Sweden's one and only navy base, and it's that old maritime architecture that give the town its World Heritage status.

Views out over the water and the bay automatically become an important part of any journey around town. This running route will take you out through a lot of the most interesting islands, including the whole world heritage site, the old town, some woods and natural coastline and a few interesting neighborhoods.

We'll start in the heart of town, at Stortorget, the main square, sitting atop the hill on Trossö island. The square is flanked by a pair of baroque churches and the impressive county government building, all intended to set the tone of the town. Karlskrona is a planned town, built to accompany the naval base.
The main square, Stortorget
This area, the southern tip of what's now Sweden, was earlier part of Denmark, settled by Danes. But when the Swedes took control of it in the late 1600s, they used the chance to build a naval base in the ice-free harbor. Until then, their navy would be locked inside Stockholm harbor every winter, hindering them from supporting their provinces in Germany and the eastern Baltic.

The Swedes built their new town to surround this big market square. The main downtown is just north of the square, and the naval base is down the hill to the south. A big part of the old naval base, on Stumholm island, a few blocks to the east, has been turned into a big maritime museum. The modern part of the naval base is not open to the public, as you can imagine.

This route will first head south to the naval base, then east past the classical architecture of the World Heritage Site and the ships of the maritime museum, then west through the pedestrian shopping street downtown, through the town park, then out along the waterfront, past the fish market and jumping from island to island to run through the woods of Dragsö island, and then returning to the main square.

So, if you're ready to see this really interesting town, let's get going!
The clock tower
So turn southwards, and face the round Church of the Holy Trinity. Head downhill to the left of the church along Södra Kungsgatan. We're running towards that strange clock tower in a park ahead. The clock tower (Amiralitetsklockstapeln) was used as a reference for the navy ships to set their chronometers, needed for navigation.
Navy base entrance
Run past the tower and notice that a railway tunnel was dug directly below it to supply the naval base.

Keep going until you face the entrance to the base, and its old buildings, now turn left and run back to Vallgatan, where you turn right and run past the old, yellow naval buildings and come out at the water at the Aurora Bastion, and its castle walls.
Along Vallgatan

There are a few nice old buildings along the water here, and the lighthouse. Turn north (left) to head along the water until you get to the bridge that takes you to the right onto Stumholm island, one of the highlights of the run.
Aurora Bastion
Head straight east, and you'll find yourself in the center of the maritime museum complex. The museum is free of charge, so theoretically, you could jog inside the museum buildings, but I'd recommend not making a nuisance of yourself that way. Come back later to take a look inside, while viewing the old ships tied up to the docks here and viewing more of the old fortifications!

To the left of the main museum building, there are some retired navy ships along the quay, and some old sailboats near them, cutters used to train new sailors.
Maritime Museum windjammer
Now continue east to the water, and turn right to run past the little swimming beach and then left to run past the old flying-boat hangars.

Now run into the compound surrounded by the stone wall, and you are in a fort with some old cannons facing outwards along the ramparts. Run up there and enjoy the view out over the maze of islands and rocks out in the harbor.
Along the ramparts, with a view of the outlying skerries
Viewing all those rocks, it's not surprising that in 1981 a Soviet spy submarine grounded out there, causing a big incident with the neutral Swedes.

Now let's follow the water, past the lighthouse, back to the bridge and leave this really interesting corner of town. Turn right when you cross the bridge and run a block to Ronnebygatan. Now turn left and run uphill on this main pedestrian shopping street. It's pretty lively during opening times, and is a fun spot to people-watch.
The town park
When you get to Norra Kungsgatan, turn right to head to that green park down the hill, on the left. We'll circle the park, head back up to Ronnebygatan again, then turn right to  head to the waterfront.
Extra loop onto Stakholmen, if you wish
This is the fish-market, and we're now looking northwards towards the mainland, with a big blockhouse fort on one big rock. Stay along the water, running westwards past the ferry landing, with its redeveloped waterfront and new wooden promenade. 
At the fish-market
You'll see a footbridge connecting to a little rocky island (Stakholmen) to the right (you might want to circle it for fun), then continue next to the street, Björkhomskayen.
On Ekholm island
When you come to the high bridge ahead, turn right to run through the little island of Ekholm, with its pleasant collection of wooden houses. Exit Ekholm on the footbridge to the west and continue to Strandvägen, where you turn right to continue along the water.
View of Brändaholm summer homes
There's a great view of Brändaholm, a beautiful colony of little red summer homes across the water. You'll run past a little boatyard full of neglected old boats, then come to the bridge that takes you to the right, to Dragsö island. This is my favorite part of the run, with lots of real Swedish nature, cliffs and woods.

As soon as you cross the bridge, turn right onto the little trail in the woods, and follow it to the parking lot for the campground. The campground occupies most of the island, but there is public access to anywhere you want to go.
The little beach: continue on that trail next to the water
Run through the parking lot and then you'll run through the main gate into the campground, past their amazing mini-golf course, with replicas of all the town's famous buildings: you'll recognize almost all of them from the first part of the run!
Rocky shore in Dragsö campground
Keep to the right and follow the campground road until it ends at a tiny beach. A trail then goes into the woods on the left, circling to the left. There are some signs explaining that it's an Enchanted Forest, where the stones turn into trolls each evening, and where you'll probably see a few plaster trolls no matter what time of day it is.

You can take some side trails out onto the giant rocks and cliffs, if you'd like. Then the trail connects back into the campground road again, heading south along the west side of the island.

You'll come out at the beach near the front gate again, where you again run through the parking lot. But this time take a look to the left: there's Brändaholm again, with its charming collection of summer homes. This is a really cool little neighborhood, so let's loop through it.
Flowers in Brändaholm
Run onto the lower trail that hugs the water, running past one great stuga (cottage) after the other, with their stunning gardens. When the path ends, head uphill and then follow the steps to take you back down to the parking lot again.

Now run back along the little trail to the bridge and leave Dragsö island. But now turn right to follow another little trail along the wooded west shore of Saltö island.
Runners on Saltö
You'll come out along a beach, where you turn left onto Almogatan, which takes you past modern apartments to Tjurkovägen, the main street in the neighborhood.

Turn right and cross that high bridge that takes us back to the main island. But now we want to see more of the old-town, so immediately turn right, at the water and run to Wachtmeistergatan.

Now run uphill, past some old wooden houses. Turn right at the top of the hill onto Korvettgatan and continue running past old houses.

When the street ends at Chapmansgatan, turn left and follow the stone wall of the naval base as it curves a few times. It will come to an intersection where several streets all come together. Continue eastwards along Hantverkeregatan, with more old wooden houses.

This street will end right back at the main square again, where we started. Now that was a run with a lot of variety!

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